Data privacy is no longer as simple as locking a file cabinet. Technology has made it easier for healthcare data to be stolen, leaked, and misused. This vulnerability is why you and your employees need to understand what HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is and how you can stay compliant.
What is HIPAA compliance?
HIPAA compliance is the set of practices which ensure the security and the privacy of all forms of protected health information, in other words, obeying all the rules set by HIPAA.
Here’s what you need to know to keep patients and your practice safe, including why you need HIPAA-compliant forms.
You can also download the PDF version of this HIPAA compliance guide for free!
Becoming HIPAA compliant: Where to start
Still, everyone has to start somewhere. Perhaps you’ve been trying to comply but don’t know where to begin. You might have discovered things you’ve overlooked while reading this article.
Here are seven steps that you can use as a HIPAA compliance checklist for your practice:
- Take an online HIPAA checkup. Using an online HIPAA checkup can help small practices quickly identify gaps and risks in their processes. You can then use this information as a baseline to start from. Planet HIPAA’s online HIPAA Checkup helps you start down the road toward compliance.
- Do a thorough risk assessment. How can you be HIPAA compliant if you don’t know where your weaknesses are? Even if you’ve done a risk assessment in the past, you may have new information to add. There may be areas of your PHI management that you hadn’t previously considered.
- Review the Health and Human Services website for the most recent guidelines. Sign up for updates from the site. Technology is constantly changing. As it does, HHS updates will keep you updated on best practices. This guidance should be thought of as equally important as the law itself. If the Office for Civil Rights audits you, they will be looking at whether you’re up to date.
- Update your training materials at least once a year. Most of the material will stay the same, but incorporate any recent HHS updates into the manual. If you’ve been using the same manual for more than five years, you’re way past due for an update.
- Schedule annual HIPAA training for your team. This training isn’t something you want to skimp on, so plan a whole day for it. If everyone can’t be away at once, consider creating a modular online course. Because this type of course is interactive and includes quizzes, it can also improve your staff’s understanding and retention of the material.
- Get signed Business Associate Agreements from any third-party providers, partners, or contractors. BAAs are not optional, so have procedures in place to get them signed before you share any protected health information.
- Use HIPAA–compliant software to make managing protected health information easy and secure. Your electronic recordkeeping should include data storage solutions and forms that comply with HIPAA requirements.
Why HIPAA-compliant forms are essential to your practice
“Providers need to fill out an average of 20,000 forms every year.”Rick Hammer, ReferralMD
Due to the considerable amount of recordkeeping required for HIPAA compliance, electronic forms provide many advantages. Unlike written forms, electronic forms are permanent and always legible.
Electronic forms increase the efficiency of your documentation process by eliminating duplicate work. They can ease, or even automate, data collection. They also reduce data entry when interfaced with electronic spreadsheets or medical systems.
When choosing a HIPAA-compliant form service for your practice, remember the importance of electronic security. Your forms must use data encryption to ensure that any stolen or leaked data will be unusable. In addition, the connection between the form and the server must be secure.
To learn more about how you can accomplish this level of HIPAA security, centralization, and automation, get HIPAA-compliant forms from Jotform.
The first step in HIPAA compliance: Intake forms
Although there are several types of HIPAA compliance forms, intake forms are the cornerstone of protected health information in a practice. The vital information that they contain enables you to better treat your patients. But you are also responsible for protecting that information.
Collect health information safely and easily with HIPAA-compliant online forms from Jotform!
Getting electronic signatures and verifying patient information can all be squared away before the patient walks into the waiting room. If using electronic intake forms is as easy as sending an email, why don’t all practices use them? What else should you do to improve the intake process for your patients?
How to improve your patient intake process
Creating the right patient intake process isn’t rocket science, but it does take some planning and the right tools.
- Get rid of outdated paper forms. Smart forms, like those from Jotform, make the transition smooth.
- Streamline your communication. It’s not the ’90s anymore, so why are so many practices playing phone tag with patients and using appointment reminder cards? Start identifying the steps in your process that waste the most time. Then, look for an automated solution.
- Reinforce the patient experience. How many times have you gotten a bad review that had nothing to do with the actual care you provided? The front desk experience is as important as the healthcare you provide. Make sure everyone in your office is up for the challenge. Have reliable systems in place to help them provide exceptional care throughout the patient experience.
How to keep patient intake forms secure
With the barrage of data breaches in the news, many think that electronic equals unsafe. However, when set up correctly electronic records are far more secure than traditional paper records and file cabinets.
Jotform’s electronic forms use extreme measures to keep patient intake forms secure and stay HIPAA compliant.
Specific intake form cases
A massage therapy business can use intake forms to gather information just like any other healthcare provider. Beyond that, massage intake forms can help you build a relationship with the patient.
A second unique case is using intake forms for infant patients. Infant forms ask very specific questions because the answers to these questions may influence infant care. In general, they ask about things that a parent or guardian may not think to mention.
Because your practice may also have unique needs, you should use HIPAA-compliant forms that can be easily customized. This will be helpful especially when creating more specialized forms, such as baby massage forms. Once you have the various forms you need set up, consider where else you are storing or transmitting electronic PHI. What types of security safeguards do you need to comply with HIPAA online?